In London, two strands of extremism share the same world view: Doug Saunders

Good assessment by Saunders:

While these may appear to be two strands of extremism, one Islamist and the other far right, ostensibly posed against one another, any up-close examination of their opinions and rhetoric reveals that they have the same view of the world, the same mirror-image political goals, and now the same tactics.

One of the first to mention this similarity Monday was Brendan Cox, the husband of Ms. Cox, the slain MP, in a message he posted: “Far right fascists & Islamist terrorists are driven by same hatred of difference, same ideology & use same tactics. We’ll defeat both.”

That view was picked up by Prime Minister Theresa May, who had been criticized previously for turning a blind eye to her country’s right-wing terrorism problem. On Monday morning, she denounced it as an equally serious threat, calling this attack “every bit as sickening as those which have come before… an attack that once again targeted the ordinary and the innocent going about their daily lives … There is no place for this hatred in our country today.”

The parallels between these two extremisms had long been visible on Seven Sisters Road.

At some points, especially in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the angry guys on the street would be yelling Islamic stuff. The Finsbury Park Mosque, around the corner from Monday’s attack, had been taken over by a one-armed former Afghan Mujahadeen fighter who called himself Abu Hamza, known in the tabloids as “hooky mullah.” After the congregation banned him in 2002, he would stand on the street outside the mosque just off Seven Sisters Road, gather a small crowd, and shout wild-eyed speeches calling for the death of infidels and praising terrorists.

The multi-hued congregants seemed relieved when Abu Hamza was arrested in 2004 on charges related to organizing terrorism. (He is currently serving a life sentence in the United States). Their mosque is now a moderate place with an explicitly anti-extremist message.

But, in part because of the mosque (and the soccer stadium), the area would often attract far-right extremists from the British National Party, the National Front and other such movements – often linking their anti-Muslim message to the mounting anti-European Union “Brexit” campaign they backed.

They often seemed hard to distinguish from the jihadis in their strident tone, their belief that the world is divided into incompatible civilizations, and their intolerance of the plural and diverse life of modern Europe that is so abundantly visible on Seven Sisters Road. On Monday, the two groups showed themselves to be identical in every imaginable way, including the worst – and we can hope that Britain will now turn against both equally.

Source: In London, two strands of extremism share the same world view – The Globe and Mail

Toronto lifts curtain on extremism prevention plan, quietly operating for more than 2 years

Part of the arsenal in combatting extremism and increasing resilience:

Police in Toronto are lifting the curtain on an extremism prevention program that has been quietly operating in the city for more than two years — but experts in the field say getting young people at risk of radicalization to use it will come down to a question of trust.

The project, which first sprouted in 2013, has been purposely kept from public view until this week.

“At this point in time we feel that we have a good service in place and we’re ready for people to participate in it,” Deputy Chief James Ramer told CBC News. Together with the City of Toronto, Ramer said, the force hoped to fine-tune the program behind the scenes through direct involvement from community groups, rather than simply present a made-by-police project.

Here’s how it works.

A person deemed at risk for extremism is referred by a police officer or a participating agency to one of four hubs, each consisting of 15 to 20 bodies, including medical professionals, faith groups, the school board and community housing.

Referrals require the consent of the person at risk and are based on a list of some 103 risk factors. Participation, said police, is entirely voluntary.

Cases are assessed at the hub, and depending on the most pressing concerns, two participating organizations are chosen to lead an intervention, which can range from spiritual counselling to mental health assistance.

Referrals anonymous

“All of this is done in complete anonymity,” said Ramer, adding that the hub process meets the privacy commissioner’s “gold standard” in terms of protection of personal information. Only cases that involve a criminal element or pose risks to public safety are formally investigated.

As for what kinds of extremism the program addresses, Sgt. Kelly Gallant said it runs the gamut from Islamist-inspired, to white supremacist to environmental extremism, to name a few. “We talk about all different kinds of extremism.… Not just what we mostly see on TV.”

It’s not the first time a deradicalization program has been floated in Toronto, but it is the city’s first police-led initiative.

Toronto police

Deputy Police Chief James Ramer, Sgt. Kelly Gallant and Staff Sgt. Donovan Locke say the extremism prevention program has been quietly operating in the city for more than two years. (CBC)

Six months ago, the Canadian Council of Imams announced plans to open two to three deradicalization clinics in Toronto that would take a “holistic” approach, as early as this fall. Those clinics, Toronto imam Hamid Slimi told CBC Toronto, have not yet taken off owing to a lack of community support.

Toronto’s program is housed under the police’s existing community safety program, which also tackles gangs and drugs. Montreal also has an anti-radicalization centre, but not one led by police.

Trust ‘in shambles’ in some communities

But whether young people will consent to being involved in the program will ultimately depend on whether they feel safe engaging with police, says University of Waterloo religious studies post-doctoral fellow Amarnath Amarasingam.

“It depends much on how the police are able to gain the trust of communities. In some communities, this trust is in shambles, but in others, there is a history of working together. So, it really depends if the cops can shed some of this baggage,” Amarasingam said.

Source: Toronto lifts curtain on extremism prevention plan, quietly operating for more than 2 years – Toronto – CBC News

ICYMI – Andrew Coyne: A war that cannot necessarily be won, but must be fought all the same | National Post

Good realistic commentary by Coyne:

Alas it is not so. Whether or not we choose to be at war with ISIL they are at war with us. And there is very little we can do to change this.

We cannot simply defeat them in battle, as we might a conventional state: whatever progress we have made against ISIL in Iraq and Syria seems only to have diverted its energies into attacks overseas. Nor can we appease them, as we might a conventional terrorist group, even if we were of a mind to: for they have no demands, or none that we can possibly meet, such is the fantastic, end-times nature of their beliefs.

Nor can we just harden our defences, as if we could anticipate every possible avenue of attack. Protect the most prominent public buildings or infrastructure, and watch as restaurant diners and concert-goers are mown down. Guard against bombs and hijacked airplanes, and see AK-47s and trailer trucks used instead. Close the borders, and find yourself beset by homegrown jihadis. Focus on known terrorist profiles, and the enemy takes the form of “lone wolf” attackers, with no necessary connection to ISIL.

The threat — anonymous attackers, willing not only to kill in limitless numbers but to be killed themselves, and aided by all the latest technologies — is unlike any the world has ever faced. And among the challenges it presents is the psychological.

Because there is no satisfying narrative arc to this. We don’t get to go home when this is all over, because we are home and it may never be over. We have to accept this. We have to accept that some problems cannot be solved, but only endured; that some wars cannot necessarily be won, but must be fought all the same.

We are not helpless. We can make less likely the worst sorts of attacks, the kind that require greater planning, co-ordination and resources, and as such are more easily intercepted and disrupted. We can deprive ISIL of territory, starve it of funds, kill its leaders, and by these and other means deny it the mantle of prophecy on which it depends for new recruits.

And we can do much at home, notably to ward off the kind of deep-seated alienation within Muslim communities that so plagues Europe, on which terrorism thrives. It is crucial Muslims are not made to feel as if they are the enemy, collectively — every bit as crucial as recognizing the unique danger posed by ISIL, and the fundamentalist Islamic theology at its heart.

But there will be more attacks like those we have lately suffered, and probably they will be worse.

I don’t mean to say there is no chance of defeating ISIL, or that Islamist terrorism may not in time go the way of other threats to our way of life. I only mean that we cannot assume it will — not in the short term, and not even in the long. The roots of fanaticism have sunk too deep, over too much of the world, to be assured of that. When an idea, once unthinkable, has been first thought, and not only thought but acted upon, and spread to thousands if not millions of people, it will be a long time before it can be unthought.

So we must accustom ourselves to looking at this, as our adversaries do, as a struggle that may go on for decades, even generations, and understand that in the meantime there will be many more innocent deaths to mourn.

ICYMI: Offing the boss: Does killing terrorist leaders make us safer?

Another interesting piece by Doug Saunders:

But does it work?

One reason why Mr. Obama’s Taliban-termination received hardly more attention than his other acts on Monday is because people increasingly feel like it doesn’t. The Taliban appointed another leader, its third. Al-Qaeda has sprung back to life. Some have likened decapitation policies to Whac-a-Mole games: Bash a bad guy, and another one springs up.

Boss-offing is not a mysterious topic: In recent years, an entire science of decapitation analysis has sprung up.

The most influential number-crunching was conducted in 2009 by Jenna Jordan, a researcher at the University of Chicago (she is now at Georgia Tech). She analyzed 298 incidents of “leadership targeting” over six decades and looked at their impact on the organizations whose leaders were the recipients of these abrupt terminations.

Her results were far from encouraging. Her data showed that decapitation, on average, “does not increase the likelihood of organizational collapse beyond a baseline rate of collapse for groups over time.”

In fact, the extremist groups most likely to fall apart (that is, to stop being able to commit attacks and wage war) are actually those whose leaders have not been killed: Hitting the head honcho actually seems to help groups keep fighting longer – perhaps because it rather literally injects some fresh blood into the organization.

More recent analyses have questioned these findings. Certain groups have indeed self-imploded following the untimely demise of their figurehead: Peru’s Shining Path faded into irrelevance after its leader Abimael Guzman was captured; Italy’s Red Brigades did not outlast its founding leaders; the capture of Abdullah Ocalan disempowered Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party for a decade.

In a big-data study last year, Bryan Price of the U.S. Military Academy analyzed 207 terrorist groups from 1970 to 2008, but instead of looking at their effectiveness, he examined their longevity.

He found that taking out the executives “significantly increases the mortality rate of terrorist groups, even after controlling for other factors” – but it often takes longer than we’d like. Counterterrorism, he concluded, is a long game. He also found that the groups most likely to implode after things blow up in the head office are nationalists. Groups that see themselves as religious, he found, are more tolerant of bloodbaths at the top. Of 53 religious groups, only 19 have ended – 16 of them after their boss was wiped out. But of the 34 such terrorist groups still in existence (including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State), 20 have endured a decapitation strike.

There are other good reasons to knock off the kingpins: Inspiring morale in your troops, hurting jihadi recruitment by looking all-powerful, sowing moments of chaos that can be exploited. But there’s no reason to think they’ll make the fight any easier, or the world less bloody.

Source: Offing the boss: Does killing terrorist leaders make us safer? – The Globe and Mail

India’s Extremists Turn on Left-Wing College Kids – The Daily Beast

Hindu extremism:

Change is inevitable. Change is constant. The world is changing, and so is India. But ever since The Donald Trump of India, aka Narendra Modi, and his militant right-wing Hindutva Party came to power, India is fast becoming a nightmare for its women and minorities, its Dalits and Harijans, its LGBT community, and yes, all lovers of good medium-rare steaks and juicy burgers.

There are scholars who will argue that the self-proclaimed “benign land of gentle chants and a thousand ‘Namaste’” has always been excessively hostile and extremely violent to the non-conforming.  History shows that India’s ruling elite more or less eradicated its Buddhist population (Indian folk lore often claims that they merely tricked the Buddhists into converting). Nonetheless, the division of the former Indus Valley Civilization, the formation of modern India, was on a pledge of plurality and on secular values. The Indian National Flag is tricolored, emphasizing its inclusiveness of all peoples and faiths. Therefore the accelerated return to the unbearable intolerance of alternative views and liberal values is disturbing.

For Kanhaiya Kumar, the student body president at Jawaharlal Nehru University, February 9, 2016 started perhaps like any other. But later that day he made a fatal mistake, in a speech at a protest rally at JNU—India’s Berkeley—wherein he criticized Modi and the Hindutva party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Three days after his speech, Kanhaiya was arrested on charges of sedition. While being escorted by the police to the court, he was attacked and beaten up twice, according to Indian media—initially by a mob of lawyers, and then again a second time by a ‘man in dark glasses’ when he was being kept in a room at the court before the hearing. Later, Kumar was refused bail.

I understand that some might wonder how a person, under the watchful eye of the media and heavy police escort, can get beaten up on court premises. Well, please keep in mind that this is India; strange things always occur at Indian courts. On Dec 6, 1992, the Hindutva thugs demolished the Babri Mosque in the town of Ayodhya, on grounds that it stood on the exact spot where an Indian God, Ram, was born. The Supreme Court, while acknowledging the lack of evidence that the mosque stood on the spot where Ram was born—and while also acknowledging that there were multiple other locations in the town of Ayodhya with superior claims, let alone multiple other towns in India that had better claims as Ram’s birthplace than Ayodhya—still ruled in favor of the Hindutva position. Given the state of Indian courts, the two back-to-back beatings that Kanhaiya received is just par for the course. To an outsider this might appear bizarre, but to people in India, this is simply expected.

Source: India’s Extremists Turn on Left-Wing College Kids – The Daily Beast

Luc Portelance and Ray Boisvert: It’s time for Canada to get serious about national security

Overview of the security agency perspective from Luc Portelance and Ray Boisvert. Challenge to the rest of government and society lies with counter-radicalization efforts, as they flag below:

Radicalization prevention begins at home, in our communities and across various levels of government. Furthermore, the development of counter-narratives to violent extremism must not be seen as the exclusive domain of security agencies. Counter-radicalization is a long-term battle of ideas that can only be won through collaborative action across society, and more specifically by applying proven commercial marketing strategies.

With the move of the multiculturalism program back to Canadian Heritage, there is an opportunity for the program to play a larger role in such policy discussions and initiatives than was the case recently at CIC/IRCC (as was done previously before the move to CIC/IRCC).

Source: Luc Portelance and Ray Boisvert: It’s time for Canada to get serious about national security | National Post

Canadian women give birth to children of ISIS fighters

No real surprise here that Canada is not exempt from this trend of some women living in the West, hard as it is to understand why, both objectively and from their families’ perspective.

Decisions have consequences, as other accounts of women who have traveled to Iraq and Syria have found out (‘There’s no way back now’: For female ISIL members, Syria is one-way journey).

These studies are helpful to highlight this (fortunately small) trend, and more important, inform counter-extremism strategies:

Canadian women are helping to grow the so-called Islamic State.

According to researchers at the University of Waterloo, three Canadian women have given birth to children of ISIS fighters, while another two are pregnant. The new details are part of a larger study following foreign fighters who flee to Syria and Iraq. The women travelled separately over the past two years, leaving their families back home devastated.

“They’re quite worried about what is going to happen to their daughter, but also their grandchild,” said Amarnath Amarasingam, a co-lead author of the study. “For most of the parents, I think there’s kind of a double reaction. First they’re kind of happy a grandchild is involved, but at the same time, they’re quite devastated that a child was born into a war zone, to somebody they’ve never met.”

The researcher also said the challenges these women face are quite obvious. Although they have a place to live, it is difficult to find basic supplies like clothing and diapers. Some of the families back in Canada are keen to help their daughters, but are afraid of the legal consequences.

“If you were to send diapers to Syria, I don’t know if that contributes to real support of a terrorist organization, but it does rest on very shaky legal ground, in terms of what you’re allowed to send to a place like Raqqa,” said Amarasingam.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said this is “obviously a very disturbing development,” and recommitted to opening a national counter-radicalization office.

“We will be moving forward shortly, as rapidly as we can, on the creation of this new office for community outreach and counter radicalization,” said Goodale.

“I’m concerned with every dimension about this type of problem, it runs contrary to everything Canada stands for, in terms of values in the world,” he added.

The creation of a new office was part of a mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the public safety minister late last year. The Liberals aren’t saying yet if funding for the office will be included in the upcoming budget, but there are signs this program will be a priority.

Amarasingam said the challenges these women face become more complex because of their age. “These girls are very young,” he added, “they don’t have much experience in how to raise children, but they’re also raising these children under circumstances many others don’t have to worry about.”

Source: Canadian women give birth to children of ISIS fighters | CTV News

Where is the PM when Quebec needs him? Lysiane Gagnon

Worth reading, but not as sanguine about her conclusion regarding overall Canadian fears or not regarding Canadian Muslims.

Virtually all polling I have seen, as well as the identity politics practiced by the Conservative government, suggest that a significant number of Canadians do share this fear.

Fine balance between over and under-playing, but overall better to downplay and avoid over-heating fears:

Former prime minister Stephen Harper was too warlike. Now, we have the other extreme: a prime minister who hates conflicts and sees the world through a New Age prism in which everything can be solved with love and understanding. Unfortunately, the country he leads doesn’t live in a dream world.

Maybe Mr. Trudeau’s timidity is also due to the fear of raising anti-Muslim sentiments. But this is a misplaced fear: Canadians are not stupid and they know that the huge majority of Muslims have nothing to do with radical Islam. And Muslims are often the first victims of the murderous groups who reign by terror over large parts of the Middle East and Africa.

Source: Where is the PM when Quebec needs him? – The Globe and Mail

Ralph Goodale says Canada must be ‘world leader’ in tackling radicalization

Strong messaging on the softer aspects of that strategy.

Will be interesting to see how the precise mandate and implementation of the Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Co-ordinator:

Canada must become a “world leader” in stamping out radicalization, because our open, tolerant society is at stake, says Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

In a wide-ranging interview with CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, Goodale said Canada must become the “best in the world” at community outreach, engagement and counter-radicalization to avert a fundamental threat to Canadian values.

“We’re an open society, we’re one of the most plural societies in the world; the most inclusive, the most tolerant. In order to preserve that nature of our country, we need to be among the best in the world at identifying radicalization and the techniques for countering radicalization and working with all other Canadians to make sure that’s effective,” he told host Rosemary Barton.

Goodale could not provide the current number of individuals considered home-grown militants or “foreign fighters.”

But he said the government will make a “vigorous” effort to stamp out radicalization. The minister’s mandate letter includes an order to create an Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Co-ordinator.

More money for the RCMP

Goodale also promised the Mounties would have the necessary resources to keep up the fight. Last year, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said he was forced to divert 600 officers from white-collar crime and fraud files to focus on national security investigations.

“We cannot have a situation where your national police force has got to rob Peter to pay Paul,” he said. “When we call upon them to perform serious functions in the name of national security, crime prevention, law enforcement and all the other important things that they do, they need to have the physical resources, including budget, to do that well.”

Source: Ralph Goodale says Canada must be ‘world leader’ in tackling radicalization – Politics – CBC News

Half of the attacks since 2001 were committed by men born in the United States.

The paths to violence for the United States-born attackers varied. Some were recent converts to Islam. At least three who were born in the U.S. had previous criminal histories, and onehad a history of mental illness. One seemed to have radicalized after spending time in Yemen. Another became radicalized after being convicted of lying to F.B.I. agents — denying he had made plans to travel to Somalia when in fact he had.

Security experts argue that the risks of routine travel — including the U.S. visa waiver program, which allows citizens of Britain, France, Belgium and 35 other countries to enter the United States without a visa for stays of up to 90 days — are greater than the threat of foreign terrorists coming through the refugee program.

“Further restricting the acceptance of refugees does not address the most likely vulnerability to attacks from abroad, which is the large number of people from visa-waiver countries involved in the conflict in Syria,” said David Sterman, a researcher for the International Security Program at the New America think tank who has been cataloging terrorist attacks carried out since Sept. 11.

Source: The Origins of Jihadist-Inspired Attacks in the U.S. – The New York Times